“The secluded spaces; where the smiles flourish.
The silent corners; where the hopes are nourished.
The silhouetted smiles; against the torch of hope
The simplicity of life the absence of materialistic dope
No clear roads, no shops to see;
Yet souls are so free and liberated.”
I have always believed that places are spaces where people live. Bundelkhand was and still remains, just a space of human habitation. I have always visited different places with the idea of learning more about different cultures, traditions, lifestyles. My friendship with Bundelkhand was no different. My organisation, Teach for India, had organised an informative journey of 3 days, which took us through the various programme undertaken by Development Alternatives from 8th to 10th January 2015. We were first familiarised with the Eco-Friendly technological solutions that were provided and implemented by Development Alternatives. Our first visit was to the TARAgram Orchha centre.
My initial curiosity was to understand what sustainability means and how Development Alternatives was providing solutions and thus, contributing to rural sustainability. Within the campus of TARA gram Orchha, we visited the paper recycling unit, the brick/slab making unit, and a community radio station. All these units exemplify the technological innovations made by Development Alternatives. An important point to note is that all the workers are residents of Orccha. Thereby, showcasing how the centre had generated employment for the local people. It was motivating to see all the workers working hard and sincerely. It was very interesting to witness the ease with which the workers were handling the machines and it made me realise that one doesn’t have to be an engineer or a technical person to handle the machines at TARAgram Orchha.
After the centre, we visited Madore Village. This village, once again exemplified how Development Alternatives’ initiatives had made women empowerment possible through various ideas such as poultry farm, TARA Akshar+ (adult literacy programme) and Self Help Groups (SHGs). It was really wonderful to see how women had setup the farm brick by brick and had started gaining revenues from the same, with management support from their self-help groups. Also, The TARA Akshar+ programmme was enabling illiterate people to read, write and also do simple arithmetic, within two months. Once again, the village made me realise how we perceive the structures around us. The place was no different from the place I come from. The kids were playing, the inhabitants were working, the flies were buzzing and the smoke was in the air. We often adapt ourselves to the environment that we live in and it is the same thought which was constantly reiterated. There was beauty, there was art, there were emotions and there was nature. It was a beautiful place. I loved the simplicity in their eyes and the hope in their smiles; kindled further by the various setups taken by DA. The place was blissful.
On the second day, we visited Shri Ram Raja, Gaushala, a place to rear cows. I was very excited, since this was my first visit to such an establishment. There, we got the opportunity to speak with the women in the self -help groups and also contribute in few activities such as cow feeding, crop cutting, cooking, composting and the bio gas plant. All women had clarity about their work and that led to a smooth functioning of the entire gaushala. I had never been a part of such activities, and had never danced to Bundeli folk songs. This experience enriched my thinking, as I felt a sense of oneness with all of them and realised that “we all, are the same.”
As I write this blog, I am constantly reminded of the realisation that somewhere, in Bundelkhand; young Tanmay would be cooking food and a group of ladies would be singing beautiful Bundeli songs. A farmer would be cutting crops and someone would be picking up bricks. I am humbled to see that we all are the same. No matter how far or how different we may believe ourselves to be, we are created in the same way. A society; where individuals have dreams in their eyes and hope in their hearts.
This experience to TARAgram, rejuvenated my belief in oneness.
(Madhav Malhotra is a Teach for India Fellow Batch 2014, who visited TARAgram, Orchha along with her fellow collegues for their mid-fellowship retreat from 8th-10th January 2015)